“Do you have a book I remember reading once? It had a red cover and it turned out they were twins.” Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Oh my.  It wasn’t just a library joke.  People really did say this and mean it.  And then expect you to find the book for them.  As in, possibly right then.  At that moment.  Pronto~! 

Their faces fall if you can’t.  It’s a little bit heart-breaking, and one is left with a keen sense of failure in having been the Depository of all Literary Knowledge, and let an enthusiastic reader down.

The first time someone said this line to me, I thought they were taking the mickey and laughed.

Oops, no: serious.  Quickly back paddle.

You know, we should forget about classifying the books by the Dewey or Library of Congress systems.  Because this is how patrons really want us to shelve them:

Wellington Central Library, New Zealand

Wellington Central Library, New Zealand

I thought I would share some of the resources I use when searching for Forgotten Books

Because without doubt, they are a thing.  They are usually children’s or young adult books, as this comes about when people begin to suffer from Nostalgia Sickness. 

It is usually only a quick dose of this illness, but like a nagging bacterial infection, needs a specialised antibiotic to make it go away.

And that antibiotic is a particular book.  And it is up to you to make a diagnosis and find that book.

So, here are a few of the resources I use:

·         Goodreads Group – What’s The Name Of That Book???


·         Stump the Bookseller (N.B. Small fee applies but archives free to browse)


·         Search (e.g. Google) keywords (any details of plot, names, etc. also ‘book’, ‘story’, ‘young adult’, ‘historical’, ‘thriller’, etc.)

·         Literature Reference Guides, e.g.

          Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English, edited by Jenny Stringer

–          Bloomsbury Guide to Women’s Literature, edited by Claire Buck

–          Cambridge Companion to Scottish Literature, edited by Gerard Curruthers, Liam McIlvanney

·         AbeBooks.com BookSleuth®


·         Also the image searching option for search engines can be helpful.  For example, typing in “purple book cover” yields:

Purple Cover

On a related matter: people, after finding out I work in a library, will either…

a) say I don’t look like a librarian

b) ask me to recommend them a book

“Uh, ok.  What kind of stories or characters interest you?  Fiction or non-fiction?  What have you enjoyed watching or readi-“

“No, no,” my dentist says cheerfully.  “just off the top of your head.”

Gravity’s Rainbow,” I shoot back as he reaches for the drill.

These are some of the resources or strategies I use to help recommend a book (or suggest to people that they use):

·         The Ultimate Teen Book Guide, by Daniel Hahn (Editor), Susan Reuben, Leonie Flynn

·         The internet.  Just search the internet.  Blogs, forums, LibraryThing, Goodreads (especially good for reading quotes from books and getting a ‘feel’ for them)

·         Suggest they read the book of the film they loved.  Yes, there is often a book it was based on – and the book is seldom less amazing!

·         What Should I Read Next? http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/

Does anyone else have some ideas or resources they would like to share for making book recommendations or of use in finding Forgotten Books?


Thus far, and no further…

Kia ora koutou,

Today is the day I have decided to give up on my library degree.

It is a decision I have come to slowly, but is one now made.  There were two stand-out factors that finally swayed me off the path I was on.

These were personal perceptions and should not influence anyone else; nor are they to be taken as gospel.  I hope that by sharing them here, they might open up some useful discussions.

1. The people being promoted in my library don’t have library-related degrees.

Well, the bottom line and message here is that they actually count for little.

2.  Library school does not have enough papers that focus strongly enough on Information technology or teaching skills.

These are two things that are likely to become increasingly important in the library sector.

I have completed my studies to just beyond diploma/certificate level, and I feel this serves me well enough.  If I decide to pursue further study, I feel it would be more useful for me to put my money towards teaching, business, IT – or any other qualification.

There is repetitive discussion in the library world about the push to have librarianship recognised as a Profession.

Like many of my classmates, I quickly tired of what seemed like attempts to enlist me to this cause.  Moreover, there will always be a difference between *being* professional and being *a* professional.  The former has always been more important to me than the latter, and I daresay for employers too.

After visiting some special libraries and archives, I can see that the nature of the work in parts of the field certainly do require a person to have specialised skills particular to their job.

However, the apparent dismissiveness towards the qualifications an applicant holds when appointments are made for senior library roles does negate the value of a library degree.

I feel that any time myself or my colleagues have been elevated, it has been based on personality and natural skill rather than qualifications.  Perhaps this is as it should be – but now, now I intend to use my savings to travel rather than continue study.

Best wishes to all of you with a more ambitious and positive outlook than myself!

Peace. X

Future of Libraries Summit

About 9 days ago LIANZA held a Future of Libraries Summit in Wellington. Even thought I would have loved to attend I was unable to but I’ve been reading a selection of blog posts about the event. I’m glad to say most of the feedback has been positive. This has been really great to see as I believe it’s important for the profession to have discussions about it’s future direction so at the very least we are on the same page. I would really like to engage with this and be part of this discussion so I thought I could answer some of the questions presented.

What are the key drivers of the profession?

While I agree that as a whole we are a diverse industry I believe the key drivers are pretty much the same. Every library wants to engage with and provide for its user group. This is because if we don’t, what is our purpose? Therefore academic libraries have to cater for students and academics. If they don’t provide text books, access to databases and research help what’s the point of having a library at the university and I can imagine an outcry from their key user groups.

I also believe that quality training, mentor ship and development opportunities for the younger sector of the industry are crucial for the continued existence of this field. If this is not done once our current leaders retire who is going to take up the mantel and keep libraries alive?

What would a flourishing library sector look like in 2025 if we address these key drivers?

I believe it will create terrific leaders who recognise the importance of training and open communication. It will be librarians who believe in sharing their skills instead of hoarding their knowledge. These people will understand the importance of constructive criticism and listening to those down below who are actually working with our patrons and clients. This will mean that we can better serve our communities and users and therefore we won’t feel the need to continually talk about our relevance because people will see this in their everyday lives.

What are we currently doing to address these drivers – at the library level, at the sector level, at the whole of profession level?

I believe the Kotuku leadership course that LIANZA is currently running is a great start. However, as stated previously I believe that mentor ship for those who haven’t created their library qualifications would be beneficial too. At present I think we have a culture that dismisses open communication and criticism about the industry; the Issues Desk is a perfect example as we write this anonymously so we can get jobs in the future! Maybe it would be good to change the culture around this. Again, I believe the summit was a great way to do this. However, I would be interested to see how many people young in the industry were involved and what the restrictions to this were.

Where are the gaps?

I think I possibly addressed this above. But I believe its really important we create an environment of open communication. I know all opinions aren’t valid but it would be great if people could express them without fear of recrimination and lack of job opportunity. Again, I’m going to use The Issues Desk as an example, we only created this blog as we are passionate about the industry but felt we had no forum to discuss it. Shouldn’t we want to hear from people that are passionate instead of punishing them?

Who should take responsibility for these gaps?

Everyone! But in particular I believe people in management positions and the professional organisation. Come on guys, lets foster a culture of openness! Let’s listen to our front line staff! Let’s offer more leadership training!

Where to from here?

I don’t know but I worry that nothing will come from the Summit and that would be a huge mistake as I believe we should capitalise on this open discussion.

I hope that all made sense I’m a bit sick and fevery. Please feel free to comment or email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz We would really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and opinions!

Are there such things as library mentors?

At present I’m in like with my job, everything is going well and I’m enjoying the work that I have to do. However, I know that a time will come where I would like to move on. But I have no idea how to get from my current position to where I would ultimately like to go. But, I would really like to change that.

So my question is, are there such things as library mentors?

I would really love if I could find someone who could guide me in my career and let me know what I need to do in order to advance in the direction I would like to go.

The obvious choice would be to speak to my manager however, while she has been in the industry for a lengthy amount of time from what I can see her focus is very local and she does not really engage with the wider community like I would like to. Also, in the past people have only stayed in the role short term so I’ve got the impression that if I mention moving on she will think I have itchy feet and become concerned that I am thinking about leaving.

Once this is out, my thinking takes me to LIANZA. Do they have a mentor type programme?

The answer to this is yes and here is a link to it: http://www.lianza.org.nz/professional-registration/lianza-mentoring-scheme

I love that they do this. However, my only problem is you need to be professional registered and I have not completed my MLIS so therefore can’t. This I could be wrong about though because as I was filling out the, can I register type questionnaire it told me this:


But to be honest, I don’t know if I want to professionally register yet. I know I do one day but at the moment I’m just dipping my toes in the water with LIANZA. I don’t know if I’m ready for this type of commitment.

So what am I do to?


I think I may just email the person who is in the job I would ultimately like and ask them how they got to be where they are. I don’t know if this is a good idea, if the person will even get back to me or if this is beneficial. But, I’ve got to try because at this point I don’t know the path I need to take.

I would really appreciate your advice, stories and comments about this so either do this below or email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

Becoming a Manager……

So let me tell you about my experience of being promoted to a management position.

Just to be clear I have been manager to a small number of staff for over a year and still don’t feel confident in my abilities to inspire or lead.

The particular position I am in was created after a restructure, I won’t discuss the merits or disappointments of the restructure as that deserves a separate blog!

I had no previous management experience and was super excited to be given the opportunity to develop new skills and learn from experienced managers.  How wrong I was to be excited.  The only training or development I have had has been received from my direct manager who has what I would call an interesting management style.  I hoped for mentoring to develop my own style however I quickly learned what all middle level managers know to be true – you are there solely as a buffer between the plebs and the patricians.

Going into this I had a genuine desire to be a competent and respected manager.  Now all I require of my staff is that they don’t do anything to get noticed by the higher ups.  Being noticed is a very bad thing.

I’m not really sure what I’m actually allowed to do (and I have asked, believe me!) and every suggestion I’ve ever made for improvements or trying something new has been met with swift and brutal denial.


And the one lesson I have learned from this experience; upper level managers don’t want you to question the status quo.

So far this is just a reflection of the day to day reality of my job, the special hatred of my management position is the dreaded performance review period.  Which I am so lucky to have three times a year plus monthly meetings with each of my staff.  How can I help my staff to achieve their goals if I struggle to understand what is expected of me?

I want to be able to say yes absolutely you can do that instead of oh let me just check with my manager and get back to you, maybe in about a month if you’re lucky.

I hope that there are people working in Libraries out there that have had a fantastic promotion experience with support and mentoring that meant they were able to grow into the type of manager that the Library industry desperately needs. Managers who are creative and forward thinking who want to encourage and inspire those who are interested in Libraries as a career.

How I chose librarianship

What do you want to be when you grow up? One of the top five worst questions you can ask a child and/or teen (and, let’s be real, twenty-somethings don’t need reminding of their failures).

When I grow up

When I was at school and faced with this question, I would spout off my latest fantasy, and these never included real professions (like nurse, doctor, teacher, accountant). I think I was 15 when I stopped adhering to this particular social norm.


I really, really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I was pretty good at a lot of things. But as I grew older my pessimism started to outweigh my competitive spirit.

Fast forward, if I may…

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, no experience, and an intimidating student loan. Thus, I couldn’t get a job (I wish someone had told me that anything less than a Masters is basically bum fodder). After a year stuck as a middle-manager in hospo, surrounded by poor upper-managerial decisions and drunken workmates, I decided I needed to explore my post-graduate options.

Honours was immediately out. I’d love to spend a year immersed in my major (yes, I found something I liked enough to want to read and write about for an extended period of time), but alas, it is much too fun to result in job opportunities. But this was also a problem. I found for a lot of post-grad courses, that extra level of education was a prerequisite, especially if you didn’t have work experience within that particular field.

In the end I had narrowed my, well, narrow options, down to two: Museum and Heritage Studies, or Information (Library, Archives and Records) Studies. I chose the latter, feeling there may be more job opportunities at the end (the ability to study by distance was also appealing).

I wasn’t particularly passionate about a subset of society, I didn’t harbour radical beliefs about the freedom of information. I just wanted a good job, with the potential for advancement, where I could put my intelligence to use.

The fact that I was on this academic journey is (I believe) 99% of the reason I got my first job in libraries, only one trimester into study. For this reason alone, choosing Information Studies was a good move. I would not have gotten a similar role without it. I’d never been in an environment where so many people shared my tastes and opinions, and these folks will be my friends for a long time to come.

I would also add that, not really knowing what my professional options might be, other than working in a public, academic, or school library (I don’t think the existence of corporate libraries had even occurred to me), in that first trimester I was blown away by all the career possibilities.

The Master of Information Studies genuinely is as broad as it sounds. Having been studying for a while, taking a variety of papers, my career options continue to expand.

I still don’t know what I want to be. I don’t want to be limited by one thing. I’ve got my foot in the door, and I just need to find some patience while I consider my next move, and then see where it takes me.

We would love to hear about your experiences so please email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

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I am not a member of LIANZA (Library and Information Association of New Zealand) and that is because I don’t really know what they offer. I am unsure what they do as an organisation and since I’m still relatively new to the librarian game I didn’t see how they could benefit me as a library assistant.

This is partly, OK probably mostly, due to my ignorance. I actually haven’t even tried to see if this organisation could benefit me. My reason for this is because my limited experiences with the organisation have been mixed.

I have been to the brilliant Mātauranga Maori course as well as a great conference which proved to be both interesting and inspiring. But I also when to another event where I felt I was being talked down to because I was a library assistant.

For my MLIS studies I have done some research into the professional registration scheme which meant I am  somewhat familiar with this and the website and both this things I found to be lacking. However, I acknowledge this was over a year ago and my more recent dealings with the website have been more positive as improvements are being made.

LIANZA was coloured for me by past colleagues who were part of the professional registration scheme who would only talk about it in groans and whimpers when discussing all of the work needed to be part of the registration scheme.

Possibly to my detriment I have always viewed the organisation as an old boys club and something that I could never penetrate and be a part of. In my opinion there is already a weird hierarchy between shelvers, library assistants and librarians and I didn’t want to endure that in my professional organisation as well.

As I can’t really speak to what LIANZA offers as I’m currently just a judgy, ignorant outsider, in an ideal world what would I want them to offer?

  • Career development opportunities; courses, conferences and networking
  • Advocacy
  • An inclusive organisation that celebrates and offers something for all parts of our diverse industry
  • Support to try and keep public libraries free
  • Lobbying for higher remuneration for the profession (This honestly should and probably will be a whole blog post at some point but could we not be one worst paid jobs with a Masters degree?)
  • A library community because in my experience library employees are really cool.

But I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is and join. I currently don’t really have the right to be so dismissive of this organisation before I haven’t really taken the time to get to know. I hope it exceeds my expectations.

Please like, share and comment on this post. If you would like to write something for the blog please send your posts to theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz Everyone welcome.